Old dog, new tricks.

by Jennifer on January 31, 2008

Thanks for following me to the new site. I’ll be posting here from now on. My knowledgeable and helpful sister helped me move everything to here, and I’m grateful for her help. (There’s a lot I don’t know about this sort of thing. She can verify that.)

There’s a lot to know these days. Just in the last two days, I had to learn how to use a program called Smart FTP. Which stands for Freakin’ Torture Program. It works, then it doesn’t. That’s all I’ve learned about it so far. Exiting out of it and going back in seems to help. Except when it doesn’t. I learned to import and export content, upload themes, and fly a plane. Well, most of those.

Yeah, there’s a lot to know these days. ATM pins. Website passwords. How to pay bills online. How to operate the DVR. How to email, and even how to blog, activities that didn’t even exist 20 years ago. A lot of the skills we use involve small, precise mechanisms. A computer mouse. ATM key pads. Video game controls. Remote control for the TV. All of these things add something to our lives, and at the same time take something away.

It occurs to me as I write this that the Boy and the Girl have never held a shovel larger than the plastic ones that come with a bucket. Here in the suburbs, with a desert backyard, there hasn’t been much need for one. It seems these small tools have taken over for the large, outdoor implements that I could wield before I was 8. Let’s just say, I can do a mean weed chop with a hoe.

There are other things they haven’t done, like climbing high into a tree. The truth is, they’re going to need to know all the skills of the day, and ones that haven’t even been invented yet. But because of very specific decisions their parents have made about where to live, they’re missing out on some of the old ones. I grew up in Missouri and was outside most of the time. I was able to enjoy those fearless years when it was nothing to climb to the top of a 40 foot high tree, and to sway back and forth with one foot wedged into the crook of a skinny branch. It was nothing to catch a toad or a frog or a snake, and to cart it off to school in a jar with holes poked in the lid. And it was everything just to spend a warm summer evening, catching fireflies, especially if we were lucky enough to have our cousins at our house with us.

My kids, I’m embarrassed to say, will freak out if there’s a fly in the house. (Well, once, it was a lizard, but the Girl–who was 3 at the time–screamed, “There’s a fly in our house! There’s a fly in our house!” Imagine my surprise when I arrived on scene with a rolled up copy of the Pottery Barn catalog. Which, by the way, is not at all useful when there’s a lizard in the house. The best I could do was order it some nice curtains and a table lamp for the hole in the yard where it lives.)

Mr. H and I have decided that at the end of the school year we’re moving back to Indiana, where we have a lake house. We may not stay forever, but at least long enough to gather our wits, if we still have any, and decide where our kids will experience the rest of their childhood. A big part of me is happy about that, if for no other reason than to give my kids whole summers outside (not possible here in the desert when it’s 115 every day), so they can climb trees and get over their fear of things that crawl. Maybe they’ll fish a little ( a little every day, I hope), which the Boy already loves to do.

Because as nice as it is to learn the new tricks, it might be even nicer for my young pups, finally, to learn some old ones.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Emily January 31, 2008 at 1:07 pm

That sounds like a very, very good idea.

My husband is opposed to Zach climbing trees. I figure, if he is going to do it anyway, the kid should learn while young on short trees so he gets good at it before trying a maple or something.


Slow Panic January 31, 2008 at 2:06 pm

You know I am all about teaching the kids new tricks.


Brenda January 31, 2008 at 3:30 pm

If there’s one thing I don’t love about living in our ‘high desert’ (which means you CAN go outside in the summer here, as long as you are not barefoot on the asphalt, concrete or sand in the afternoon), it’s exactly the things you’ve mentioned. We don’t have a tree big enough for our 3-year-old to climb, let alone the 6-year-old. I hate that my kids have to go to the park to learn to ride a bike on grass. I hate that they can’t spend a whole afternoon (or day) roaming the wooded hills with their friends while their parents sit on a deck bigger than my current house idly philosphizing about the world while overlooking a pasture amid the thousands of varied type of birds that come to be fed at the feeders near the deck.
My only solace is this my children don’t KNOW about those things, so they can’t miss them. I miss them for them, but they have their own set of games they play in their back yard the size of a putting green.
I hope my Girls get to spend some time one of these days with Boy and Girl catching fireflies. They’ve never seen them! Our return visits are never the right time of year. I DO miss fireflies! (But I don’t miss flies!)
Thank you for your post. It was so much what I think and feel all the time, and hilarious to boot!


HRH January 31, 2008 at 4:57 pm

Love your new look and am jealous you have already made the move.

Love the thought of creating on outside world for your kids…I recently went on a field trip to a local nature area and the guides were lamenting that most the school children that visit are AFRAID of nature. So sad! Loved the fly story.


Kellan January 31, 2008 at 5:28 pm

I love the new blog – very nice!! And, nice sister too!

WOW – moving back to Indiana – that is so exciting. I know the feeling of wanting something for your children – something else, and then trying to find that. Good for you!!! We bought a lake house about 10 years ago – we spend lots of time there in the summer. When we did it, it was for the sheer reason that we would have a place to go – the children would have a place to go – where there was only and always fun – not work! It has been the best decision we have ever made – well, one of them. I’m glad to hear you are headed out on a new adventure with your family – it sounds wonderful. Take care and see you soon. Kellan


JCK February 2, 2008 at 6:34 am

Love the new blog look! I’m in the process of doing mine, too. It is so much fun!

There’s a great book called, Last Child in the Woods: saving our children from nature deficit disorder. I haven’t read it all yet, but it really resonates.

Pretty funny on the Pottery Barn catalogue.


Loralee February 3, 2008 at 6:54 am

Very pretty digs you have here. When I moved to my own url I wanted to repeatedly stick a fork in my eye and go fetal and sob.

I also really love the story behind your blog name. I adore driving by myself with music. LOVE it. Maybe I should schedule the time with myself instead of doing it randomly.


You are the fourth person that has either announced or moved to Indiana lately. Is there something in the water there????



Jennifer February 3, 2008 at 5:25 pm

Loralee, There very well may be. Some sort of Hoosier quality, some mineral, that’s drawing us there! (In my mind, it was an evil plot to make me live in the Midwest again, but it just might be the water, after all.)

Glad you stopped by!


suburbancorrespondent March 4, 2008 at 11:07 am

I’m wondering if anyone at all has a childhood like that anymore. I mean, climbing trees is dangerous (definitely not good for our precious protected 21st-century tots), and who has time to poke around in the woods over the summer when there is camp to go to, and vacations to take, and Wii in the house?

I swear, sometimes my kids are the only ones outside/home during the summer months. It makes me want to cry.


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